Solar leads all forms of energy in digitalization: DNV GL

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Compared to other energy industries, the solar industry is far ahead in the application of emerging digital technologies such as blockchain, drones and cloud computing, according to a new report by DNV GL.

The report, Digitalization and the Future of the Solar Energy Industry, reveals the current progress of digitalization, as well as barriers. It also provides suggestions on how to take advantage of the many opportunities that digitalization presents. Nearly 2,000 engineers and senior executives from start-ups to large corporations across the energy sector responded to the survey.

According to the report, solar companies have been focusing on blockchain technology to drive digital transformation. About 12% of respondents said that the skills to implement blockchain applications are needed in the industry, which is 50% higher than in other energy industries.

The use of blockchain technology is still in its infancy, however. Blockchain applications could make an impact on areas such as decentralized energy transactions, net metering and billing.

Other digital technologies that are more advanced are already an integral part of the solar industry. Drones, for example, are widely used in the solar industry for asset inspections, mapping using satellite data and automated resource assessments. About 33% of respondents said these technologies are making an impact on their businesses.

Potential barriers

While a dearth of digital skills and a lack of a digital mindset were cited as the biggest concerns in the wider energy industry, uncertainty about technology stood out in the solar industry. About 35% of respondents identified this as a barrier to digitalization.

The respondents also pointed to a lack of standards in the solar industry. Although the solar business has made attempts at standardization, it isn’t as advanced as other industries. The report therefore suggests that the industry needs to establish a framework for the use of digital tools to facilitate future adoption.

As the solar industry strives to reduce costs and do more with less, a successful digital transformation will be critical to offering the kind of innovation that improves efficiency while maximizing performance and energy yields. The solar industry is already on the right path, as it has traditionally been quite progressive in adopting new digital technologies.

“The mindset of the solar industry is geared towards embracing new technologies to further advancements in their field, which is a very promising signal that digitalization will play an integral part in solving the challenges the industry will face in the future,” said Ditlev Engel, CEO of DNV GL Energy.